When I first started trying to rebuild my wardrobe, one of the first things I did was swear off shirts that didn’t come in my exact neck and sleeve size. No more alpha (small, medium, large, etc.) sizing, as I could never find a combination that fit my frame correctly. Over time, I developed a preference for custom, made-to-measure shirts. Going back to ready-to-wear is a tough proposition.
But as I’ve said countless times in dress shirt reviews before, made-to-measure isn’t for everyone. And if you’re fortunate to be able to buy items off the rack that you enjoy and fit well, then you should do it because it’ll save you time and you can often find good deals.
I wanted to provide that personal background so you can understand my experience with Hugh & Crye better. They have the most unique sizing I’ve ever encountered and when they contacted me to review one of their shirts, I had to ask them for help on what “size” shirt to pick from. They were extremely helpful, but I would point out that it helps to know your basic measurements.
Instead of sizing guys by neck and sleeve, they size you by your build (skinny, slim, athletic, broad) and height (short, average, tall). That’s it.
I won’t deny being highly skeptical of the idea, but it actually worked for me. They placed me in the “tall/skinny” fit, which I suppose is an accurate description of body.
I received their Rockefeller shirt that features a spread collar, barrel cuff, placket front and no pocket on a blue and white striped poplin fabric made of 120s Egyptian cotton.
The collar stands pretty well, even after two washes now. I hate collar stays (and the shirt includes removable ones), and I liked the fact the collar managed to stay up well without them under a jacket.
The buttons are plastic, but they are decently thick and don’t feel cheap at all. Along the placket’s end, the bottom buttonhole is horizontal. This allows the shirt to move as your waist expands to have some give without stressing the placket and causing it to pull (probably helpful to those of us who drink too much beer or enjoy pasta).
The shirt’s side seams feature single-needle construction, which is preferred to the double-needle construction you see on cheaper and lower-quality shirts.
The back of the shirt is darted, helping trim and taper the torso’s extra fabric. I’ll admit that I don’t have my MTM shirts darted, but I’ve never minded when ready-to-wear shirts add darts. I feel they only help the shirt fit better.
At the base of the side seams are Hugh & Crye’s signature contrasting gussets, which help prevent the shirt’s seams from splitting from stress. I haven’t seen gussets like this before and thought they looked pretty cool. Thankfully, the contrasting fabric is tastefully complimentary and simple.
The shirt’s construction overall felt well done. Hugh & Crye’s site says they primarily manufacture their shirts in India and source fabrics from Italy. In addition, they have a rather comprehensive disclosure page about their sourcing. I thought this was rather a rather interesting level of transparency, which I hope becomes more common from others.
In regards to the fit of the shirt, I really liked it and their approach to sizing worked for me — a pleasant surprise. Their shirts range from $85 to $125, slightly more expensive than Brooks Brothers, but cheaper than many department store brands.
I would add Hugh & Crye to a very short list of ready-made shirtmakers I’d recommend. Combined with a good variety of classic fabrics and thoughtful construction, they’ve managed to produce a competitively priced shirt.
The pitch hit all the right notes: denim fabric sourced in the United States or Japan, made in San Francisco and a price that reflects selling direct to customers versus retail markup.
The Kickstarter was a massive success, but my one hangup on issuing a blanket recommendation about Gustin was that I’d not handled the product myself and I thought sizing could be a bit tricky along with exchanges. I also wondered what Gustin would do post-Kickstarter and how they would continue to offer their jeans to those who wanted them.
Gustin launched their new website this week and they were kind enough to provide me with a pair to examine and photograph for this review.
After having hand’s on with Gustin’s jeans, I’m giving them a recommendation.
One of the first things I noticed about Gustin’s jeans were the back pockets and their unique blue horizontal stitch. At first, I thought this was a decoration, but it turns out that it’s actually there to functionally attach an inner cloth liner to help prevent your back pockets from blowing out and forming holes.
Of course, you can look up a bit higher and see the leather patch. I’m not person who places a lot of value on the leather patch on denim, but it does feel more substantial than one that would appear on a pair of Levi’s. However, it feels thinner than the Tanner Good patch that comes on a pair of 3Sixteens. As someone who wears a belt over the patch anyway, I’m not too hung up on it, but I did appreciate that the patch is darker and subdued rather than outlandish.
The inside of the jeans is pretty standard. The left pocket has a patch sewn on with information about the jean’s fabric, fit, care instructions, etc., and the fly also features a selvedge edge.
What really impressed me, however, were the buttons. I love the buttons on this pair more than any other jeans I’ve worn or seen.
The tops of the buttons feel thick, unlike other pairs where the fly buttons are almost sharp along the edges. The result is a more knob-like feel that buttons smoother and rolls along your fingertips better. It’s hard to explain why I’m obsessed with these buttons, but Gustin sourced unique hardware.
The seam rivets are also interesting. Rather than having tiny studs that stand up and protrude, their rivets are recessed and smoother as you brush over them.
Gustin also uses some subtle stitching details with red thread, placing it along the inside hem, the crotch seam and at the outside opposite the selvedge. It’s a small detail that most won’t ever see, but it’s a nice way to distinguish their pairs from others without going over the top.
Of course, a large selling point of jeans comes down to fit.
I’m a natural 33” waist and typically take a 32” waist in most raw selvedge denim jeans I buy. Gustin didn’t have a 32” available to send me, but did provide me with a pair in size 33”.
If you know your actual measured waist size, I’d recommend definitely sizing down 1” and perhaps consider going down 2” to account for stretching in the denim over time.
Regardless, I felt the jeans offered a good fit that was flattering and looked slightly better than a pair of Levi’s 501s would give you. The seat area of the jeans were comfortable and I felt that going down a size or two would still be pretty good and only slightly tighter. The rise was about where I’d like a pair of jeans to be — not too low, just slightly above a mid-rise.
For those of you who don’t like a straight cut, Gustin is now offering a slim cut. I’d perhaps also consider going with a slim cut if you’d like a smaller leg opening. You can see their size chart here.
In their post-Kickstarter phase, Gustin is now doing something similar on their own website. You can “back” a pair of jeans for pre-order and if enough buyers back a particular fabric, then the jeans begin production. Prices range from the original $81 to $99 — both of which I think are a very fair price for these jeans.
The one thing I cannot comment on yet is how Gustin’s jeans will look over time after many wears and a wash, but that’s a risk you take with any new pair of jeans. What I can say is that I think Gustin is bringing a lot of value and thought into their jeans and if you’re on the fence, then consider trying a pair.
I want to make an admission: I’ve only owned one pair of khakis since getting into this whole menswear, dressing-better thing.
I know it’s a wardrobe staple, the bedrock of casual workplace wardrobes across the country, but I’ve really only owned one and even that pair I ended up selling after a few months. My preference has always been to wear wool trousers or denim.
(I will admit to buying a pair of beige canvas cotton trousers last year, however, I don’t consider them true khaki drill cotton trousers.)
For a while I was slowly considering several options from the usual suspects, but kept putting it off. After all, they weren’t a personal wardrobe staple for years, why rush a purchase now?
In a weird coincidence, Jim Ockert, the owner of J. Lawrence’s Khaki’s of Carmel, contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to review their new private label line of — what else? — khaki trousers.
Khakis from Khaki’s. Sure, I’m game.
(To get the obvious questions out of the way: No, they don’t just sell khakis at Khaki’s and the name “Khaki’s” was chosen by Jim because it was easy to remember — much in the same way “Polo” is identifiable with Ralph Lauren.)
When I first received the trousers, I took note of a few things. First, the fabric weight and density felt substantial. I’ve tried chinos and khaki trousers from several brands and some of their fabric just felt thin and cheap. Not the case with these pants, which are made of an English drill cotton.
Jim said the twill fabric he chose is unwashed and won’t stretch or change over time like some cotton fabrics do (indeed, I noticed such things happened on a pair of chinos from Brooks Brothers). The interior piping and pockets are made from Italian oxford cotton fabric.
In regards to the trouser’s construction, Jim said he instructed his manufacturer in New York to find details to add in rather than subtract out to save costs.
When it comes to fastening details, the trousers don’t cut corners. The trousers have a YKK metal zipper and a French fly with an extended tab on the front so the waistband stays straight.
On the interior, a two-piece pleated waist curtain gives the trousers better fit just below the waist and the waistband itself is split so you can alter it if you gain or lose weight (most cheap chinos will have a single-block waistband that’s unalterable).
The trousers completely lack branding with the exception of the center belt loop being a charcoal flannel material — a quirky signature from Jim (if this is too much whimsy for you, then a spare belt loop make of English drill is included, too).
While details are nice, cut and fit still matter the most. While the J. Lawrence line will feature two cuts, I asked to try the contemporary fit rather than the slim fit. Over the past year, I’ve come to find that slim trousers aren’t very flattering on me and combined with my larger feet, they can make me look a bit awkward.
I’m really happy with the contemporary fit. It’s relaxing to wear, but still very flattering. The trousers come unhemmed and I had them altered to just a bit past “no break” without a cuff. There’s enough room for movement in the seat and thigh area without it looking too wide and after a few wearings I’ve found them quite comfortable to lounge in while sitting down at my desk.
The rise is what I’d call a slightly higher mid-rise, which is another one of my preferences now. The legs taper slightly with a leg opening of 8” (on a 33” waist), which I guess one would call almost conservative by today’s standards.
Jim informed me that the cut of the trouser is unique to Khaki’s and their slim cut features a lower rise and more tapered leg, which may be the preference of others who are looking for that look.
"We’re not trying to make ‘candy clothing’ that looks good but you can’t wear it," Jim said. "It’s wearable and approachable anywhere in the world."
I’ve enjoyed wearing the trousers with a simple OCBD and a cashmere cable-knit crewneck sweater and penny loafers or chukka boots (as seen above), which all seem coherent with a casual trouser. Of course, I’ve also found myself wearing it with a navy blazer and wingtips.
Curious, I asked Jim how he’d choose to style the khaki trouser on one of the 98 mannequins in his store and he responded by styling three of them at his store with the trousers in their various colors.
If you’re interested in purchasing a pair, Jim said you can e-mail him personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at 1-800-664-8106 and he’d be happy to chat with you.
And if you haven’t read it yet, check out brokeandbespoke’s profile of Jim Ockert and J. Lawrence Khaki’s of Carmel. It’s a good read and after my chats on the phone with Jim I can honestly say it’s an accurate portrayal of Jim’s enthusiasm for menswear — and I genuinely hope to make it out to his store in the future to see it in person.
"We’ve been working on streamlining our process and now in just two weeks you’ll have a MTM shirt delivered to your door."
That was the bold promise of Proper Cloth, who contacted me about providing a made-to-measure dress shirt for me to review. I found this fascinating and impressive.
One of the startling things about made-to-measure operations now is the turn-around time. Where traditional bespoke used to take months, made-to-measure now can be done in a matter of weeks — but even a two-week timeline from order placed to arrival at your door is insanely fast.
Naturally, speed isn’t everything when it comes to custom-made shirting. Fit is still paramount alongside construction quality. But as someone who has tried several other MTM operations before, it’s interesting to see a company focus on shipping logistics, too.
I went my usual route for measurements at the Proper Cloth site, entering in measurements off my best-fitting shirt, which usually produces the best results. Other methods are available, of course, but I didn’t want to tread in those waters. The shirt-building process is similar to other MTM shirting sites, beginning with you picking your choice of fabric and then entering details for the various elements: collar, cuffs, placket, monogram, etc.
Now, I know I’ll get asked about that two-week delivery time, but I feel kind of bad in how I tested it: I placed the order five days before Christmas. Between two holidays and the massive postal rush, the shirt didn’t quite arrive within the timeline — just two days over. Fedex also reported an international shipping clearance delay on the package. So, I’m actually impressed it arrived as fast as it did and I’m sure under normal circumstances that two-week window is accurate.
Enough about shipping though, let’s get to the shirt.
While I usually enjoy wearing blue shirts, I opted to go with a checked shirt with alternating blue and brown lines to be worn with tweed jackets and suits. A bit more casual because of the pattern, but still subtle and not too loud.
Proper Cloth offers the usual wide range of fabrics ranging from $80 to quite a few in the $150-$200 range from Thomas Mason, Canclini and Albini. I actually went with a $95 cotton broadcloth fabric simply for the design.
You can choose from 15 different collar types and I picked the “Presidential Spread”, which featured longer collar points, which I’ve begun to prefer for shirts. The collar itself stands quite well and the length fits neatly under the lapels of my jackets, helping to avoid the dreadful collar gap.
In terms of other details, I did decide to upgrade the shirt’s buttons to mother of pearl (additional $15) and went with a front placket, given the shirt would be worn with the more casual tweed jacket.
Complimenting the placket, I added a pocket and barrel cuffs with a single button. The cuffs do feel softer than other shirts I’ve had in the past. They don’t feel overly stiff after just one washing. There’s also a much-welcome button on the gauntlet, too.
It seems like every MTM shirting company has a few surprise details that come standard and impresses me. First, Proper Cloth makes split-back yolks standard on their dress shirts at no extra charge. Complicating matters further, I ordered a patterned shirt, which makes it tougher on the manufacturer to align the pattern along the split seam. I think they did a pretty good job considering the grid pattern is actually more rectangular than square (and, yes, nerds: I know all squares are rectangles).
Also worth noting for the first time ever in my MTM shirting experience: gusseted seams. This helps keep the end of the shirt’s hem from coming apart while under stress. No other MTM shirtmaker I’ve used has done this for my shirts and it’s nice to see that Proper Cloth makes it standard operating procedure on theirs.
I should also add that Proper Cloth uses single-needle construction on their seams, which also adds durability. It’s nice to see them not cheapening out on construction and details that I’m sure add time and cost to their manufacturing.
To be a bit obnoxious, I did add a monogram ($10 fee) to see what it would look like. For placement, I chose the pocket — but you can also pick the right or left cuff. You can pick you thread color and script type.
After wearing the shirt a few times and putting it in a wash, I’ve been satisfied with the fit and it wears as nicely as other MTM shirts in my wardrobe. After comparing the shirt’s measurements to what I inputed, it’s pretty darn close after a wash (cold water, hang dry).
I’ve learned after enough MTM shirts gone wrong to give yourself enough room for movement — bending elbows, raising arms, sitting down, bending over, etc. — and not to attempt the ultra-slim “fitted” look for all practical purposes. Slightly longer and wider sleeves let you bend your arms under a jacket and keep the cuff showing still. A bit more room in the torso helps forgive a week-long bender of beer and fried food. My idea of “fit” now is more practical than it was a few years ago.
And the shirt works well with my ideal ensemble of a donegal brown tweed jacket, navy wool tie and cream square.
If you’re considering Proper Cloth, then give them a try — especially if you already have a well-fitting shirt you can base your measurements off. In case the shirt doesn’t fit you, their customer service is pretty top notch and they’ll work to get your fit right.
The construction details included in their shirts are a definite advantage and you can likely find a shirt within your MTM budget. They do have a much more vibrant set of casual fabrics (plaids and checks) that are worth checking out if that’s more your speed. For those looking for something to fit in their conservative business dress wardrobe, they have those as well.
For the price of the shirt and the quality received, I’d say that Proper Cloth exceeds other MTM shirtmakers I’ve used in the past and I can give them a recommendation.